Picasso Baby

Album: Magna Carta... Holy Grail (2013)
Charted: 91

Songfacts®:

  • Jay-Z spits wisdom about his huge wealth and exquisite taste in fine art over Timbaland's jazzy, marching soundscape. As well as the titular Pablo Picasso, the rapper also namechecks Jean-Michel Basquiat ("I am the new Jean Michel"), Mark Rothko, Leonardo Da Vinci (rhymed with 'Givenchy'), Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, New York's Museum of Modern Art, the Louvre and the Tate Modern.
  • Jay kicks off the track dreaming of hanging a Picasso in his "casa." Jay previously expressed his love for the Spanish painter and sculptor in "Who Gon Stop Me" ("I'm riding dirty, tryna get filthy") and "Friend Or Foe" ("You draw, better be Picasso"). He uses casa, the Spanish word for house, as an acknowledgment of the nationality of the Cubism master.
  • Hova's namecheck of Jean-Michel Basquiat is one of three references to the New York painter on Magna Carta… Holy Grail. Jay-Z is a devotee of the late artist who was one of the first black painters to hit the mainstream art scene in New York during the second half of the 20th century. He also referenced Basquiat on the Watch The Throne cut "That's My Bitch" ("You say I care more about them basquion's, basquiats. She learning a new word, its yacht") and his own track "Illest Motherf--ker Alive ("Basquiats, Warhols serving as my muses"). Lastly, the Basquiat painting Charles The First inspired Jay's song "Most Kingz."
  • Jay pays tribute to his wife, Beyoncé, when he compares her to Leonardo Da Vinci's famous painting:

    "I want a trillion
    Sleeping every night next to Mona Lisa
    The modern day version, with better features."

    Other songs on our database inspired by the Mona Lisa include:
    "Mona Lisa" by Nat King Cole.
    "Mona Lisa (When the World Comes Down)" by The All-American Rejects.
    "The Mona Lisa" by Brad Paisley.
    "Masterpiece" by Madonna.
    "Smile Mona Lisa" by will.i.am.
  • The song samples Adrian Younge's funk instrumental "Sirens" from the African-American composer's 2011 album, Something About April. Another Magna Carta...Holy Grail track, "Heaven," also borrows from the same record. Jay-Z was put onto Younge's record by CEO of management company Hip Hop Since 1978, Kyambo "Hip-Hop" Joshua. "I haven't spoken to Jay personally about it," Younge told MTV News, "But in the Samsung commercial, there's a part where he says, I want 'keyboards like that' and that's my song."
  • The song's breakdown is in French. It translates as:

    French Woman: "I gave and showed you everything, with nothing to hide. You are Ivy here; the nombre d'or. Jay, how do you say nombre d'or?"

    Jay-Z: "The gold number."

    French Woman: "You swear."
  • Jay opens his third verse by refuting the rumors about him having sexual relations with Foxy Brown.

    "I never stuck my c--k in the fox's box but
    Damned if I ain't open Pandora's box"

    Ever since Hova hooked up lyrically with the then-16-year-old Foxy Brown on his 1996 single "Ain't No N---a" there has been talk that the pair hooked up in the bedroom as well. Nas mocked him about the speculation on his 2001's Jigga-dissing track "Ether," and Brown herself added fuel to the rumors years later on her track "Let Em Know."
  • Jay-Z mimed to a playback of the song for six straight hours at New York City's Salon 94 art gallery. The rapper's arty venture was filmed in real time and various VIPs were invited to watch and film clips. The work was partly inspired by that of Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic, in particular her 736-hour static, silent piece The Artist Is Present, in which she sat immobile in the museum's atrium while spectators were invited to take turns sitting opposite her.

    This performance was the basis for the song's video, which was directed by Mark Romanek, who had done Jay's clip for "99 Problems." The full-length video runs 10:46 and contains some commentary from Jay. "What you see in the film is very warm, human, open, joyful side of Jay, and a lot of people are having a really emotional reaction to seeing that," said Romanek. "It's this tsunami of unfeigned joy and excitement for six hours."
  • In 2019, Forbes valued Jay-Z's art collection at $70 million. In 2013 he bought Basquiat's "Mecca" for a reported $4.5 million.

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Chris Tomlin

Chris TomlinSongwriter Interviews

The king of Christian worship music explains talks about writing songs for troubled times.

80s Music Quiz 1

80s Music Quiz 1Music Quiz

MTV, a popular TV theme song and Madonna all show up in this '80s music quiz.

TV Theme Songs

TV Theme SongsFact or Fiction

Was a Beatles song a TV theme? And who came up with those Fresh Prince and Sopranos songs?

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: Tarantino Edition

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: Tarantino EditionMusic Quiz

Whether he's splitting ears or burning Nazis, Quentin Tarantino uses memorable music in his films. See if you can match the song to the scene.

Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & PalmerSongwriter Interviews

Greg talks about writing songs of "universal truth" for King Crimson and ELP, and tells us about his most memorable stage moment (it involves fireworks).

American Hits With Foreign Titles

American Hits With Foreign TitlesSong Writing

What are the biggest US hits with French, Spanish (not "Rico Suave"), Italian, Scottish, Greek, and Japanese titles?